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Scout's Eye: McClain's Return, Byron Jones' Versatility & 10 Other Minicamp Thoughts

IRVING, Texas – Inclement weather forced the Cowboys into AT&T Stadium for Wednesday's minicamp practice – not that anyone was complaining.

Working away from the rain and the humidity was nice, and we were also afforded a closer look than normal at these offseason practices. Here are 12 notes that stood out to me from the sidelines.

  1. Another solid practice for Darren McFadden carrying the ball. It is clear that he not only has the ability to extend the play once he gets through the hole, but when it comes to creating on the move he has that stop-start quickness that DeMarco Murray lacked. There is a noticeable difference when the ball starts play-side, but it quickly ends up on the back side when McFadden is carrying it.
  1. Brandon Carr was back at right corner on Wednesday. Carr was beaten down the field by Terrance Williams on a vertical route and a slant off play action, but later in the drive, Carr battled back with a nice stop in the red zone to deny Williams the chance for a score. Carr also had a chance for an interception on an overthrow by Romo, but it appeared that the ball surprised him and he was unable to come up with the catch.
  1. This practice was by far the best for La'el Collins when it came to finishing blocks on the second level. I have to admit that I had some concerns about Collins and his lack of foot quickness --especially at offensive tackle -- but there were some snaps even at guard where you could see him struggle to get his man secured on the zone reach. There were plays where he was a step late and missed the flow linebacker. It was encouraging to see him take a better angle and lock down his man. Just a note as well – his power and punch have been outstanding at guard. Plays with some snap.
  1. Give Jerome Henderson and Joe Baker some credit for the way that their secondary played during practice on Wednesday. In studying practice, there were not many opportunities for these quarterbacks to make open throws. There were plenty of contested throws throughout the day.
  1. It is not often that I write about many range plays from these safeties -- especially Barry Church -- due to the fact that he spends the majority of his coverage snaps down in the box. Church had a nice breakup on Terrance Williams on a vertical route down the right sideline. Church playing off the hash to that side was able to read Romo all the way and was able to track Williams the moment the ball arrived, knocking it away. Church showed nice football awareness and the burst to close and finish.
  1. Rolando McClain took some part in the pat-and-go portion of practice. This is where the defenders run up the field in coverage against air, working on their ball skills. McClain appeared to be a little stiff in his movements and nowhere near ready to put on a helmet, pads and be a part of a normal practice. These next five weeks before camp opens are going to be huge in whether we see him or not. I don't want to doubt the player or question why he is rehabbing in Alabama, but if he was here in Dallas during those weeks – I know for sure he would be ready.
  1. I know it jerseys and helmets, but the one thing you can see in practice is athletic ability and I have noticed this with Corey White. It hasn't mattered whether White has lined up at corner or safety, he has shown awareness and cover ability. On Tuesday, he made a play at safety covering James Hanna. On Wednesday, while lined up at corner was able to knock the ball away from George Farmer on a slant where it appeared that the catch had a chance to be made.
  1. I feel bad for Chaz Green and the time that he will now miss going into training camp with his hip injury. It is most likely that he will start camp on the inactive list, and this will put him further behind his other line mates. In talking with the coaches they were pleased with his progress from the rookie camp until the work with the veterans started. They felt like he was picking things up well mentally, but it appears that things he learns in the classroom will be the only things for a while.
  1. The defensive coaches continue to roll Byron Jones between corner and safety. Corey White was the backup on Tuesday at safety while Jones played corner. On Wednesday, those roles were switched. Jones was in the back half while White was on the outside. I was asked by a fan on Twitter if I thought that if White played well enough at safety, would that allow Jones to stay at corner. If it is about playing your four or five guys and Jones is one of those guys, I have no problems pairing him with Barry Church and not looking back if it gets him on the field.
  1. I love the practices at AT&T Stadium because it allows me the opportunity to get right in the middle of the drills on the field.  My favorite thing is to go down in the corner and study the defensive line as they work for Rod Marinelli, Leon Lett and Ben Bloom. As a former scout, I appreciate how much coaching goes into the position and what they are able to accomplish in the time they have to work. The combination that I really enjoy watching is when DeMarcus Lawrence, Tyrone Crawford, Greg Hardy and Randy Gregory are all coming off the ball. There is so much explosive quickness when the ball is snapped – the group is like a blur. From what I have seen it just appears that these players are going to have success getting to the quarterback this season.
  1. Speaking of Greg Hardy, Jason Garrett told the media that the plan is to continue to get Hardy as much work as possible and play him in the preseason much like they did with Orlando Scandrick when he was initially suspended for the first four games of the 2014 season.
  1. Thanks to all the fans along the sidelines during practice that were so nice to say how much they enjoy our work on – that means a lot.            
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